What does B.Z.’s resumé look like? Well, the bullets are:
- Seventeen years working in the children’s library field.
- Twelve years teaching in a public school.
- All in one little community: Tuolumne County, CA, and Sonora, my hometown.
But then, there’s that “Professional Storytelling” bit:
Launched my Pro-Teller AND Puppeteer career in 1977. I learned that if I led with “puppetry,” I’d get hired. At the time, no one knew what “professional storyteller” meant. “Huh? You want us to pay you to read a book in front of the kiddies?”–In those early days our work was cut out for us to teach America what storytelling was and could be! I did my part here in the Sierra Nevada to spread and help define the meme.
Co-Founded the first Tandem Tellers’ group in California: The Moonbeams, 1978-1981, with Wendy Griffiths-Bender. We performed throughout Tuolumne and Stanislaus County for schools and libraries. We were the first professional tellers to do Environmental Education Storytelling Program for the United States National Forest when we launched the Tuesday morning “Stories and Songs Program” that still runs today on The Stanislaus National Forest.
Founded “The Sunnyside-Up Players,” (1981-1988) a group of 50+ volunteer puppeteers and tellers, who visited every K-3 classroom in Tuolumne County to do programs on self-esteem and making good choices. Funded by Tuolumne County Mental Health, as a part of a Substance Abuse Prevention Program. “Sunnyside-Up Players” won significant recognition from The California Department of Mental Health Directors.
Co-Founded a new Tandem Tellers’ group: The Story Tailors, 1981-1988, with Claudia Tonge and Steve LaVine. Presented for the Bay Area Storytelling Festival in 1984 & 1986. Featured tellers for Sierra Storytelling Festival in 1986. The Story Tailors toured throughout northern California, as puppeteers and storytellers.
Founded The Strawberry Music Festival’s children’s program in 1984. I made sure that storytelling was an anchor of that festival, beginning with the work of The Story Tailors. Today storytelling traditions live on at Strawberry as a new generation of tellers are coming forward.
Five year hiatus from EVERYTHING took me back to college and eventually into my formal teaching career (My hub, Rick Thorpe, became seriously ill, which prompted a full shutdown of other activities. Rick passed in 1991). But my love of Performance Storytelling remained. So, in 1993 I re-launched that solo career, and returned to The Strawberry Music Festival stage and The Sonora Christmas Crafts Faire stage.
Co-Founded another new Tandem Tellers’ group: The Story Quilters, 1995-2009, with Cynthia Restivo. Our work manifested great depth and focus. We worked well and hard together for many years, and it was an honor and privilege to work with Cynthia. Together we created a dynamic, successful performance group, and toured from Los Angeles to Sacramento, from the Sierra Nevada to the San Francisco Bay. We conducted workshops for universities, libraries and schools. We were active with The California Arts Project, and were able to help design curriculum that is used in schools today. Cynthia is still very active in TCAP. In 2005 The Story Quilters were invited to tell for The National Storytelling Festival in their Friday night showcase of new talent.
In 2010, in a partnership with my community’s performing arts school, Connections Academy, I wrote and received a grant to develop new high school level curriculum for “The Art of Storytelling for Filmmaking.” Now moving in our second year, over 60 area students have participated in this adjunct to their film production class.
Co-founding a new storytellers’ guild in the central Sierra Foothills of California. We’re just getting going, but we are having a good time.
In 2015 I moved into a whole new area when I was hired by The Haggin Museum in Stockton, CA, to help them create a new storytelling tour. I’m training docents, writing stories for The Haggin and helping them to define just what these tours will look like. The tours will launch some time in 2016.
Still enjoying the chance to perform, give workshops and mentor.
How did I get into my 60’s? It doesn’t seem possible that I’ve been doing this work for nearly 40 years! I continue to gather resources and meet new tellers. I love working in new collaborations to bring recognition to the Next Generation of storytellers and new leaders in the arts for my region of California, the central Sierra Foothills.